I am now moving between two pieces of writing that will not allow me to hurry. In our culture (and especially in a world defining “leaders as readers” and shame on you if you’re not reading a book a week..) this is hard. My reading does indeed move too quickly. These writing won’t let me, and I’m grateful.
One is a book taking from the spiritual diaries of Pope John Paul II called In God’s Hands. The second is a little book given to me by a friend who was giving away a massive amount of books as he was sorting out his office. It is Writings from the Philokalia: On Prayer of the Heart. It collects writings from early church fathers. Currently I am pondering my way through the writings of St. Gregory of Sinai.
As I read these books I am drawn to the stillness each writer had in their own lives. Pope John Paul II certainly didn’t live in a “still” world, having pastored and led the Church from the time of the Cold War on. Yet, their writings have a stillness to them. There is a depth of contemplation that cause me to pause every few paragraphs and think, “What in the world did I just read?”
A life given to stillness of soul is cultivated. St. Gregory offers the essentials that need to be built into our lives. This is the task before us. How do we put these essentials into place?
“There are three practices pleasing to God: psalmody (possibly defined as a way of constant praise), prayer and reading…” (St. Gregory)
A life lived in constant communion with God. A heart that is in such communion there is a song constantly rising. A life of prayer that doesn’t always need a “prayer closet” but is indeed born out of the time with God. A life cultivated by reading that draws us to the heart of God. These are essential. Building these three components into our lives over time give us a stillness before God and in this world that could truly make a difference.